Workers have figured prominently in a series of political confrontations that have changed the face of modern China. From the May Fourth Movement of 1919 to the June Fourth Massacre of 1989, working-class participation has proven critical. Although these famous milestones in Chinese history are, for good reason, usually regarded as student—rather than labor—protests, the involvement of members of the working class was far from incidental. The spectacle of workers marching outside their factory gates to engage in protest not simply as laborers, but also as citizens, has been a notable feature of Chinese contentious politics at critical junctures throughout the twentieth century. This phenomenon, moreover, carries implications that extend beyond the borders of China itself. Worker participation in the watersheds of Chinese political history turn out to hold international ramifications as well.
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